Vatican Proposing Presence at Venice Biennial

By Paolo Centofanti

ROME, SEPT. 1, 2008 ( Art just might be the key to reintroducing the great
Gianfranco Ravasi2.jpgfigures and images of Christianity to modern culture, according to the president of the Pontifical Council for Culture.”

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi, who also heads the Pontifical Commission for the Cultural Heritage of the Church, said this in an interview with ZENIT this week regarding his proposal to promote the presence of sacred art at the 2009 Venice Biennial.

He said his idea is to launch a “presence — not direct, but parallel” — at the contemporary art exhibition that takes place every other year in Venice, Italy.

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in July, he revealed that the Vatican is weighing various proposals concerning the placement of its pavilion, such as at the University of Venice or in a series of Churches. He also spoke of plans for an art prize at the exhibit.

“This presence of the Holy See,” the archbishop told ZENIT, “which I would like to realize, has precisely the objective to foster a new art that also takes into account the great religious motifs, including but not only the Marian motif.” 


Archbishop Ravasi lamented that great architects are building modern Churches around the world, but the structures “are either naked [inside], as they have only the architecture of light, or images in poor taste, or only the presence of handicrafts and not, as in the past, great works of art.”


“Suffice it to think of the great churches of the 16th century,” he said, “of Baroque art, which had in themselves the wonder of architecture, but also the presence of artists such as Bernini, for example, or Titian, or Veronese. Let us think of the great Venetian churches, what lofty presences they have from the point of view of art history.”


Gianfranco Ravasi arms.jpgThe archbishop said he would like, through his proposal, to encourage “great contemporary artists […] to represent the great religious images, and also to reawaken in […] ecclesial authorities the need to propose again great works within their churches.”

“Perhaps art,” he added, “might be the way to reintroduce the figure of Mary, but also the figures of the great images and great personalities — beginning with Christ, of course — of the Christian tradition.”